Two months ago I was thinking about starting hiking, and since I’m of the mindset that any new hobby should accompany a new purchase, I wandered into the Keen store on University Avenue in Palo Alto, to look at hiking shoes. Immediately, I felt out of place. I felt as though I had a flashing sign on my forehead that said you don’t belong here, and that everyone in the store could tell I’m not outdoorsy.
An employee came over to me and showed me how to use this industrial rack that rotated the shoes and asked me if I needed help. My first thought was, great this guy definitely knows I don’t belong here. So, I replied with, “I’m fine”, and picked out a few pairs of shoes to try on that ended up being all wrong. Feeling frustrated and embarrassed, I told him they didn’t work out. At this stage, the average sales person would have just let me go. After all, I asked to try on a bunch of shoes, refused any help, and was likely another lookie loo, wasting time. Instead the sales person asked me very politely what I was looking for, if I needed any help with sizing, fit, and if I could use any recommendations? So, I told him the truth, I didn’t know anything about hiking shoes, and that the shoes I tried on didn’t fit properly. He listened, offered suggestions, and took his time bringing me out shoes two additional times, until I found the perfect pair. By this point, my husband Ian who was with me was also convinced he should buy shoes. The sales person paid an equal amount of attention to Ian, and soon he was walking around the store saying these were among the most comfortable shoes he’s ever tried on.
Why am I telling this story? Not just to talk about how I like shoes (even surprisingly hiking shoes), but rather to relate this to the technical buying cycle. Is your prospect new to their field, to their job, have they purchased technology before? Maybe an RFP is a foreign concept? Is it possible that the last person at their company got fired for purchasing failed technology? Or, their team is under pressure for letting software sit on the shelf? Maybe, they don’t realize the benefit your company provides, because they don’t want to admit they haven’t heard of you before?
As a sales person, your first job is to make people feel comfortable. So I think it’s worth asking yourself, are your calls, or demos an inviting environment? Are you creating a space where relative strangers trust you enough to tell you their challenges? To admit, they just might be uncomfortable?
It’s not always easy to understand if someone really is, “just ok”, or when they may be afraid to admit they don’t understand, have fears or pre-existing reasons they may be leery to try something new. So, what can you do? The most basic step is by asking questions in a casual conversational fashion, and offering guidance. Other things you can do is invite a prospect to a field event, user conference, or dinner where they can interact with your best brand advocates, your customers. If they are local, offer to host them in your office.
At the Keen store, I was ready to walk out. If it weren’t for the great sales associate taking the extra effort to make me feel comfortable, I wouldn’t have purchased 2 pairs of shoes. And, I likely wouldn’t have started hiking, which has turned out to be a fantastic hobby. I don’t think the Keen salesperson was even commissioned, but how many of you are? It’s in your financial best interest to create a comfortable experience for prospects, whether it’s virtually on a join.me call, in person at a trade show, or in your office. Aim to create a space where your prospects feel they can lower their guard, expose their fears, and open up about their goals. In sales you’ll see the gains.
Image of Take a Hike © http://mylittleunderground.net/product/take-a-hike